On Christmas…

Then came Hanukkah;[c] it was winter in Jerusalem. 23 Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!”

25 Yeshua answered them, “I told you, but you don’t believe! The works I do in My Father’s name testify concerning Me. 26 But you don’t believe, because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life! They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again the Judean leaders picked up stones to stone Him. 32 Yeshua answered them, “I’ve shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone Me?”

33 The Judean leaders answered, “We aren’t stoning you for a good work, but for blasphemy. Though You are a man, You make Yourself God!”

34 Yeshua answered them, “Isn’t it written in your Writings,[d] ‘I have said you are gods’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the Word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, the One the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You speak blasphemy,’ because I said, ‘I am Ben-Elohim’?

37 “If I don’t do the works of My Father, don’t believe Me! 38 But if I do, even if you don’t trust Me, trust the deeds. Then you may come to know and continue to understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.” 39 Therefore they tried to capture Him again, but He escaped from their hand.

40 Again He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first started immersing, and He stayed there. 41 Many people came to Him and were saying, “John performed no sign, but all John said about this man was true.” 42 And many trusted in Him there.

(John 10:22-40)

  1. John 10:22 Lit. Rededication.
  2. John 10:34 Lit. Law, here applied to the Torah, Prophets, and Writings; quote is from Ps. 82:6.
Tree of Life Version (TLV) Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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On Christmas…

My family has been involved in the Messianic movement for 22 years, now, since 1995. Like many people within the Messianic movement, I find myself not looking to the month of December with great enthusiasm.

Huge controversies can and do erupt during the month of December, regarding how Messianic people are to approach the Christian holiday of Christmas, on December 25. Many Messianic Jews simply do not see Christmas as something Jewish, they do not see it as something for them, but if Christians observe it, they are not going to oppose them. Many Messianic people, particularly intermarried couples, often keep both Chanukah and Christmas. Many other Messianic people, oppose Christmas, although for different reasons and with different levels of opposition. Some of this may simply come from December 25 not being a specified holiday in the Bible, or established by the Apostles. Others see Christmas on December 25 as a clear result of syncretism practiced by Christians of the Second-Fourth Centuries, where pagan holidays were reinterpreted and “Christianized” with Biblical themes. Many see Christmas on December 25 as outright paganism, Christmas trees directly prohibited in Scripture (i.e., Jeremiah 10:2-5), and most Christians serving the Kingdom of Darkness. And, a few others, noting some early opposition to Christmas by a number of the Protestant Reformers, see Christmas on December 25 as a symbol of corrupt Roman popery. Those who hold to all of these positions, are likely to be found at your local Messianic congregation during the month of December.

When I attended Asbury Theological Seminary (2005-2008) and took Church History I, the subject of Christmas on December 25 did come up in various classes. One of the textbooks we were assigned, had this to say:

“The earliest feast day in connection with the birth of Jesus was January 6, Epiphany, the day of his manifestation. This was originally the celebration of the birth itself. Later, particularly in some areas of the Latin West, December 25 began to take its place. This latter date was actually a pagan festival which, after the time of Constantine, was preempted by the celebration of Christmas”

Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984), 96.

As you can imagine, some of my fellow students were a bit shocked when they saw–in our assigned textbook, no less–that Christmas on December 25 had some less-than-Biblical origins. I remember once of my professors adding to this that the Christmas tree was adapted from Teutonic and Nordic religion, with obviously no connection to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem–and then only added that Easter eggs likewise had no connection to the resurrection, but instead ancient fertility rites. “So, why do Christians participate in this?”, was the blunt response. The answer was: “The Christian Church has reinterpreted and redeemed these once pagan holidays and festivities.” What this actually was, was a seminary instructor saying that it was acceptable for Believers to practice syncretism, that is, take pagan religious customs, reinvent them, and superimpose Biblical themes onto them. This is precisely what Ancient Israel was told not to do, before entering into the Promised Land:

“When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NJPS).

Yet unlike much of today’s evangelicalism, which will equivocate on the value of Christmas on December 25–a number of prominent comic voices recognize the syncretism in Christmas, and have no problem using it in their various routines!

At the 2002 White House Correspondents Dinner, Drew Carey made note of how Christmas, Easter, and most especially Halloween–were all holidays with origins outside of the Bible:

Last year, the College Humor sketch, “Adam Ruins Everything,” came out with a piece on “The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas”:

Many of us who once observed Christmas, did not participate in frivolity, drunkenness, and hedonism. Many of us observed Christmas in a pious and holy manner, going to church, focusing on the birth of the Messiah, singing hymns, and fellowshipping with family and close friends. This is actually what makes giving up Christmas difficult for many people in today’s Messianic movement. Their attachment to Christmas, is not so much with the Christmas tree; their attachment to Christmas is with memories of being with those they cared about, some of whom are no longer living.

All of us should be mature enough as adults to recognize that during the month of December, due to all of the nativity scenes and different Christmas carols, that more people are going to be presented with hearing about Jesus and some form of the gospel, than at any other time during the year. In spite of many of the questionable practices and origins surrounding Christmas, God has brought people to Himself during this time of year. Yet Messianic people should also be wise enough to recognize that the Savior declared today during the month of December, is broadly not the Messiah of Israel, who is returning to reign over Planet Earth from Jerusalem—but is instead a universal Christ of tolerance (for human sin). While many sincere Christian people have honored God in ignorance on December 25, Christmas on December 25 is not a God-honoring activity.

I do not encourage any of you to be odious to Christian people during this month, creating unnecessary scenes. Wishing “Happy Holidays” when being told “Merry Christmas,” is entirely legitimate. (Click to Source)

 

THE LORD HAD A MAN – by David Wilkerson – David Wilkerson Today – FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2014

THE LORD HAD A MAN
by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

It was a difficult time in Israel as depravity, apostasy and backsliding were
rampant in the land. At this time, the ark was gone from Israel. Eli, the
nation’s high priest, was lazy and complacent, allowing his sons to debauch
the priesthood. Under their leadership, adultery and fornication were rampant
in the temple. But Eli had become so used to his life of ease that he would not
do anything to stop them.

At one point the Lord wrote the word “Ichabod” (meaning “the Spirit of
the Lord has departed”) over the whole religious system. Once again, satanic
forces had risen to great power and to the natural eye, God’s work had lost
so much ground, the odds of recovery seemed improbable.

But the Lord had a man in place all along—a little child named Samuel. While
all the ministers around him were indulging in fornication and gluttony, Samuel
was learning to hear God’s voice. As he became more and more intimate with the
Lord, the Holy Spirit filled him with a prophetic word. He became a
testimony—living proof of the power of God!

Scripture says that as Samuel grew, none of his words fell to the ground,
meaning that he consistently spoke with power and authority. Because of his
godly authority, no nation was able to lift a hand against Israel for over
forty years.

“And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words
fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was
established (found to be trustworthy) to be a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord
appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by
the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19-21).

Once again, the Lord raised up a single man as a testimony to a whole nation.
God needed no army, no human organization, no “new thing.” All he needed
was one righteous man—someone whose ministry was committed totally to His
holy ways!

Click to http://sermons.worldchallenge.org/en/node/26098?src=devo-email

Torah Commentary – Pesach “Passover” – Now What?

Pesach “Passover”

Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

Ezekiel 36:37 – 37:14
John 19:38-21:25

passover-last supper

Now What?

The night had been filled with emotion as the Hebrews ate of their Passover meal in haste. On the one hand was a sense of excitement about what the coming days would bring as they prepared to make their journey out of Egypt. On the other hand was a sense of despair as the sun rose the next day and they looked toward a country they had once called home, a prosperous land that was now in ruins. The wails of mothers who had lost their firstborn during the night could still be heard as far away as Goshen. The panic of the people of Egypt could be felt in the air. This morning they were being told to turn their backs on the land they had once called home and to pack their new possessions, and do it quickly. The prophesied time of return to their true home was at hand. They were the generation chosen to see the events unfold.

It was all happening too fast though. Many of the people felt that life was out of their control. They wondered if the timing was truly real or if this man Moses was really sent by Elohim. Who did he really think he was anyway? Why him? This is not the way they had all imagined the end of their life in Egypt would be. What about my job? Don’t I need to give a two-week notice or something? How about a forwarding address? These were all questions that went through the minds of the Hebrews as they prepared in haste to leave the place they had once called home. Yes, the sun was rising from a quite sleepless night. But although the sun was especially bright that day there was a darkness of confusion that filled the hearts of many Hebrews. What would this day bring? They were afraid to ask!

Centuries later. Many years had passed since that celebrated day in Egypt. History recorded the events with great detail. The promised redemption had come just like He had said it would. But this morning was different. The confusion of three million Hebrews so long ago could not compare to the confusion of this day. The lives of a handful of men and women He had referred to as His family had taken a turn they had not seen coming. Life seemed to be not only on hold, but had stopped altogether. Confusion, anger, despair and fear were only a few of the emotions that gripped them. Night had come hours early the day before. The sun was now rising over the Mount of Olives, but no outward light could help the darkness they felt on this morning.

The events of Egypt had brought the faithful together so many years earlier. They had provision and they had a leader. But for the disciples, the One whom they had looked to for everything was now gone. He was dead and from their distance and vantage point they stared at a stone, rolled in front of the entrance to a tomb. They stared in wonder. How could they have been so wrong? Why had they not listened to their family members who had told them this new life would never work out? Why had they strayed from the ways of the religious leaders of the day? Why had they not just followed the traditions they had been taught as children? Confusion and despair gripped them all and would only grow worse in the coming days.

But there were words He had spoken to them in the final days rolling around in the back of their minds, just barely out of their grasp. What good would those words do them now though? He is dead. The life, the redemption from the Romans, that seemed so sure just hours before, was now impossible. He is dead! But what are those words they kept trying to bring to the front of their minds?

We usually read the Scripture far too fast, do we not? We forget that verses that are read in moments may have taken days, weeks or even years to live out in reality. The tragedy of missing this concept is that we miss one of the great points of scripture, which is to learn from the example of those who walked before us. With that said, what are we to learn here? Many things of course, but very high on the list is to remember that His plans normally do not come to pass the way that we thought they would. Another one would be that in the end His plan was always better and accomplished a far greater work for our lives than the plan we had dreamed up.

Let us all take some time in this Shabbat, the days between Passover and the end of Unleavened Bread to consider the lives of the people who were leaving Egypt as well as those who lived the long days just after the death of Yeshua. The days prior to His resurrection. Maybe as we consider their uncertainty of the future and the emotions they must have dealt with, it will help us to prepare our own lives for another fulfillment of prophecy, the one that is happening right before our eyes.

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